Wasteland 3 is a strategic turn based RPG that takes place in a decimated post-apocalyptic North America. The game begins with the player taking control of the remaining members of November Team, after being ambushed by a group of depraved bandits. Along the way, the player will form a base of operations so that they can expand their squad, improve their weapons any armor, recruit specialists to improve the base and keep everyone healthy.
If you’ve any experience with games like the xCom series, this is all going to seem very familiar. The overarching goal and presentation of the game is extremely similar, but we’re replacing aliens with post-nuclear bandits. As the for the gameplay itself once the player takes their raiders from the base into the wild world of the frozen North American states, it feels very similar to something like the Divinity: Original Sin series – but obviously with a dramatically different setting. So, if you’re a fan of either of those type of games, then Wasteland 3 might be for you.
If you want to know whether the game will suit your preferences, and whether it’s worth your time and money, well you’re in the right place. Our MGN Impressions have evolved, and today we’re going to dissect Wasteland from a variety of angles, we’ll give each angle a score from ten, and then give you our final verdict. We’re going to score Wasteland 3 on:
1: Difficulty – Is the game challenging enough to maintain the players interest through the entirety of the story, without being so difficult that the game becomes inaccessible to new players? We’ll see how inExile Entertainment handles the difficult with point one.
2: Appearance – This one is pretty straight forward. How are the games visuals? Do the environments look unique and crisp? Are the character models well crafted? Not only are we scoring appearance on the visuals, but also how demanding they are. Are there frame drops in heavily demanding areas of the game, or is it optimised well?
3: Sound – We’re going to cover a few points with sound, including how the game handles sound effects, the soundtrack, it’s execution and whether it suits the game thematically, and finally voice acting. Compile all those points together, and we get our overall score for sound.
4: Story – In this genre, having a good story is imperative. If the game doesn’t have a good narrative to base the gameplay on, well, the gameplay itself will become very tired, very quickly. So, does inExile manage to interweave their gameplay with a good story-telling experience, we’ll see.
5: Fun – Strip all the finer points away when reviewing the game, and are you having fun with Wasteland 3 when you play it. Because at the end of the day, that is the goal when sitting down to play a videogame. Are you having fun, are you enjoying the game, is what’s been made interesting to play?
6: Price – Is the amount of time and enjoyment that you get out of the Wasteland 3 experience, worth the amount of money that you have to spend? Is that in proportion? Is the game overpriced, underpriced, or just right? We’ll, if that’s your chief interest, then that’s point six.
4:01 – Difficulty 3/10
If Wasteland 3 is your first wasteland game, you’re going to be in for a rough time. I say this because the game does a poor job of explaining itself. If you’re not already familiar with the game’s mechanics and terminology, don’t expect Wasteland 3 to be accommodating.
For example, during the first character creation you will get choose skills, perks and attributes for your two starting characters, this is where some explanation would be nice. Toaster repair is an option to invest in. Why is this something of significance and why should you spend your limited points on it? Great question, one that the game goes to no effort to explain during the character creation screen. Sure, you could Google it and find out whether its worth the points allocation, but you shouldn’t have to. That information should be available at a glance within the game. There are a lot of examples of this happening throughout the game.
Similarly the difficulty options for Wasteland are also explained pretty poorly. There are four options, the first two don’t include friendly fire, and the more difficult two, do. Apart from that what sets the four apart is ‘combat difficulty’ which ascends the higher the difficulty you select. What does ‘combat difficulty’ mean? Well, that’s extremely vague too. Does that mean enemies have more health? Do they do more damage? Do they have more skills, or higher crit chance? Or does that mean all of the above? Or are some allocated for the higher difficulties, and some aren’t for the lower? Well, you’re going to have to Google that too, because the information isn’t readily available inside the game itself.
It is for these poor explanations and steep learning curve regardless of what difficulty you choose that I can’t help but score Wasteland 3 low for difficulty. Simply put, the game feels very inaccessible if you’re not already a fan of the franchise.
6:00 Appearance – 4/10
Wasteland 3 has a lot of variety in its visuals. Each ‘faction’ has an obvious theme, that you doesn’t really pop out as being out of place in the setting. And that’s pretty high praise, considering that there is such a variety on what’s on offer visually. To achieve coalescence between hi-tech ‘fiction-technology’ and survival post apocalyptic grunge, isn’t any easy one to achieve, but similarly to the Fallout series, this is something that Wasteland 3 does well.
That’s just about where my praise for the games visual effects ends. Sure, everything fits, but that’s just about it. The environments wherein your tactical turn-based fights take place are extremely similar throughout the entirety of the game. There are basically two models. Inside, and out. Each map is only a very, very slight variation of those two models. Between you’re opening few fights, and the first mission, I sincerely hope that you enjoy that environments, because you’re going to be looking to extremely similar ones throughout the entirety of the game. It just gets very old, very quickly, and saps away at the fun.
That’s without mentioned the bugs. The most recent patch for Wasteland 3 is yesterday as of the time writing the review, which means it’s been out for a little while now, and has received constant updates. You’d think this would be a good thing, and mean that the game has been ironed out. You’d be wrong. Frequently throughout my playthrough there were visual bugs. Constant poor clipping, textures not loading in, or overlapping awkwardly, assets simply not loading in. It’s a bit of a mess to be honest, and something I would have expected to have been addressed some time ago. But it just hasn’t, and it’s really jarring, and takes you out of the game ruining any potential for immersion in the copy and paste maps.
8:17 – Sound 5/10
The way that Wasteland 3 handles sound is pretty interesting. Obviously certain gameplay points having varying musical scores, but that doesn’t mean that each fight you will be listening to the same musical score. Certain significant fights have different music, and I really like the selections. They work thematically, they’re well executed and whilst there’s nothing really outstanding musically to the game, the effort is there. So, I will give the studio credit for that.
What I’m not really a huge fan of is the voice acting in Wasteland. Minor characters have extremely extensive and casted well voice acting, but the characters that you will control, and spend the vast majority of your game with have extremely limited options for voices, and those options have very few voice lines. By the time you end a playthrough, you’re going to be EXTREMELY familiar with every single voice line that a specific voice option has. This is pretty baffling to me. Why go to the effort to give a voice acting performance to characters that come and go quickly, but not to the players own characters, the ones that will be around the longest. I don’t understand that, and it becomes annoying very quickly.
What does that leave? The sound effects. I don’t really have any complains when it comes to the sound effects. Sure, there’s not anything that I’ve noticed and thought to myself “wow, they’ve nailed that”. But inversely, there’s also not anything that hits the ear wrong. Guns sound like guns, bashing sounds like something is getting bashed, explosions sound explosion-like. It’s all there, and it all sounds as it should.
10:01 – Story 3/10
I mentioned it in the introduction for this review that I thought that a good story, and good story-telling, would be key to carrying Wasteland 3 to a good score. If you’re going to have an RPG core, regardless of what the combat is like, whether or not there are tactical elements, etc – you need to have a good story. And I stand by that.
The problem with Wasteland 3 is that it has a story, it has a lot of story. Just, none of it is particularly interesting. The crux of having a post-apocalyptic setting is having the motivation for everything to be the simple “we need resources to survive” and I’m afraid to say that the introduction for the game is exactly this cliché. It does absolutely nothing to pull you in from the start. If you want something that is going to be interesting from the opening-cutscene, well, Wasteland 3 isn’t it.
When the player first stats the game, it’s clear that the narrative is going to be copy and paste from any number of media forms that have covered the sub-genre. My interest took a dive off a cliff after the opening cutscene. But, for the purposes of this review I decided to stick it out to see whether there is any nuance, or points of interest that separate the story of Wasteland 3 from the crowd. Spoiler alert: there isn’t. There’s just a lot more of the same. Like I mentioned, there’s plenty of depth to the story, it’s just all boring.
11:29 – Fun 2/10
Wasteland 3 starts off extremely slow. If you’re familiar with what xCom or Divintiy has achieved, and you have expectations of the calibre that those games have achieved, well then you’re going to be bitterly disappointed. The game is extremely slow to start, and doesn’t really pick up. The pacing is just a snails crawl. I don’t have an issue with the game introducing mechanics over time, to ease the player into the experience, but that’s not the point of Wasteland 3’s pacing because those introductions never come. It’s just slow for the point of being slow.
You’d think with the level of depth that there is in the characters that the player can create, that there would be plenty of opportunities for these to matter, creating interesting and dynamic gameplay in response to that depth. Well, you’d be wrong. It just doesn’t come. Those interesting mechanics either take way too long to be introduced, or when they are introduced early, they’re much less stimulating then perhaps the description would have you believe.
Those complaints aside, the game boils down to a very simple and just agonisingly painful pattern. Get a new mission, walk to the mission zone, shoot the bad guys, talk to the NPC. Rinse and repeat. There isn’t a whole lot of variety in the missions. I know what you’re thinking: “Luke the same can be said for a lot of games, some of which are great”. That’s true! But what sets Wasteland and those games apart, is that there is some fun and interest to be found in the pattern in those other games. The problem with Wasteland is the gameplay is boring, and that makes doing it over and over an awful experience.
13:11 – Price 3/10
Like I mentioned in the story portion of this review, there is plenty of it, so if we’re simply scoring price on how long the game is going to last you before you finish it, well then it’d get a big old check mark. The problem is that time isn’t the only contributing factor into whether the games price is in proportion to the experience. The game might last you a long time, but you’re not going to be enjoying the experience the whole time, and that is a big detractor.
The game is currently sitting at $89.95AUD on the steam store. Would I say that it is worth that price? No. Not close. If you’re considering picking up the game because it sounds good, I would say that the game sounds like it would be a really great experience if you’re a fan of the genre, but won’t really live up to the expectations that those descriptions provide. Wait for a sale to pick it up, and at that, wait for an extremely good sale. Because right now, it’s extremely overpriced for how enjoyable the experience has the potential for.
Even with a heavy discount, the point still remains that no matter how cheap that you can pick up the game for, there is probably something else in your library that is more worthy of your time.
Final Verdict: 3/10 – Disappointing
That’s going to wrap things up for our comprehensive review of Wasteland 3. If you agree or disagree with any of the points we’ve made in the review, we’d love to hear from you on our mgn.gg blog, our YouTube channel, the new MGN TV twitter, or our discord. All of which are available in the description of the video review. Thank you so much for checking out our review of Wasteland 3.